The serving president of Haiti was assassinated at his home early Wednesday morning, the government said.
Jovonel Moïse was killed in his private residence around 1 a.m. local time Wednesday by a group of assailants, Haitian Prime Minister Claude Joseph said in a Wednesday statement.
The statement did not identify the assailants, but said they were Spanish-speaking.
The first lady was also injured by gunshot in the attack, the statement said.
Joseph described the attack as “odious, inhumane, and barbarous.”
Moïse was his country’s 46th President after assuming office in February 2017.
Haiti, whose population is almost entirely descended from African slaves, won independence from France in 1804, making it the second country in the Americas, after the United States, to free itself from colonial rule. It was the first independent Black nation in the Western Hemisphere.
However, the country has been considered historically unstable due to various coup d’états, regime changes, military juntas and internal conflicts.
Recall that in February, there was a reportedly an attempt to oust Moïse from office with government officials alleging a failed coup took place.
Nearly two dozen people were arrested, including a supreme court judge and a senior police official.
Opposition leaders had disputed the president’s mandate, whose term most legal experts and civil society groups have said ended on February 7.
But Moïse and his supporters had said his five-year term only expires in 2022.
The late president won a first round of elections in October 2015. But the vote was marred by widespread voter fraud and a presidential runoff was pushed back several times.
A vote was held again in November 2016 and Moïse won with 55.6 percent support. He officially took office on February 7, 2017.
Article 134-1 of the Haitian Constitution states, “the duration of the presidential mandate is five years. This period begins and ends on the February 7 following the date of elections”.
But Article 134-2 stipulates that “in case the vote cannot take place before February 7, the elected president takes office immediately after the vote is confirmed and his mandate is expected to begin on February 7 in the year of the election”.
The dispute was over whether Moïse’s five-year term began in 2016 – after the initial elections he won – or in 2017.
It will not be surprising if the president was consumed by the political crisis in which he played a part.